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27 April 2016 12:03

NUS, AGM & Grad Ball, oh my!

Hey y’all.

CONTENTS: 1. Grad Ball, 2. NUS Conference, 3. The AGM

So, you may remember me from my blog called ‘Can I Have a Moment, before I go…’ which I wrote before I went for a few weeks for Easter. Now I’ve been back for a few weeks, And after my first 9 days back in office it seems like it’s time to write another blog and tell you what I’ve been up to.

1. Grad Ball

I am SO excited about Grad Ball this year. I will forever be grateful to Grad Ball Committee who helped direct so many of the choices that have made Grad Ball better than ever this year. The first is to move away from Oceana, even though this proved hugely challenging. There are very, very few locations in Southampton that can actually hold upwards of 1,500 students. Oceana is one, and all the feedback pointed to us leaving them behind. The Cruise Terminal is another, but because of their low opinion of students (yup, it’s that unfair) they declined to host our event. The next is the Ageas Bowl, a fabulous event venue who had the capacity but could not get the correct music license to allow us to have live acts. We looked into marquee hire, but ultimately decided that students had consistently asked for a classy event – grass and high heels rarely go well together. We even, at one point, looked into using Downton Abbey, but their max capacity was 600 people. Guildhall was not chosen as a ‘last option’, we actually considered it as one of the first three we looked at. Not only is it an appropriate venue, it’s *very* Southampton, has good capacity (albeit less than Oceana) and gives us plenty of opporunity to keep all the best bits of Grad Ball like the rides and food, have some great acts in, and my personal favourite part – it’s right on Solent’s doorstep 😉

The acts this year look really exciting. Between some of Clean Bandit coming to do a DJ Set, DJ Fresh and today’s announcement that Sub Focus will be headlining too, there is sure to be plenty of music to dance to. The acts are always one of the most divisive topics of Grad Ball, and for a long time we searched for a venue that would allow us to have rooms that catered to different tastes. Taking it to Guildhall meant we looked for artists who were sure to be pleasing to the greatest number of students, and so far the feedback is overwhelmingly positive – more so than anything else I’ve seen in my year as President, and I’m really pleased. Acts are EXPENSIVE, like, WAY more so than I’d ever anticipated. Which brings me nicely onto the most touchy subject of all… cost…

We brought several cost plans to committee, with tickets at a range of prices then looked at what we could do with the budget created. Ultimately, we chose £48 a ticket, cheaper than last year, in keeping with many other events in the country (UCL have one at £50, Lancaster £49.50, Portsmouth £45, Manchester £50, Warwick £50), and I assure you that we’re spending absolutely as much of it as we can on making the event incredible. As I said above, the acts are a lot more expensive than anticipated, I desperately wanted Little Mix but sadly they were well out of budget. For £48 a ticket we will just about break even on the event, if it ran at a loss instead next year’s ball would suffer and money that could be spent on all students would take a hit. If we went more expensive, we’d price even more people out of the event which we didn’t want to do. it’s as cheap as it can be while still providing the kind of event students have asked for – not your average club night unless you’re used to partying with Clean Bandit, next to a funfair, with a photobooth that will put you in GIF form (and what group chat is complete without oversharing reaction GIFs!?)

All in all, it looks pretty good, and I am thrilled to see that we’re over two/thirds sold out already!

2. NUS Conference

Each year, we attend the NUS National conference. It’s a great chance to mingle with other Sabbs and steal share great ideas, as well as stay up to speed on the issues the NUS are fighting in the wider world. I’m pleased to report that in some places, we’re well ahead – the Union (via Council) has already decided to support the remain campaign (alongside disitribution of facts from both student groups on each side of the debate) in the EU referendum while the NUS still dithers choosing which official campaign to endorse. Many of the issues are ones that affect all students like housing, fees, the BME attainment gap etc. The appointment of the new NUS President has proven controversial, and from what I sense we may not be one of so few Unions who exist outside the NUS for long. The conference didn’t inspire any appetite for reaffiliation, but with a few people suggesting it for the AGM we may see a referendum on rejoining in the near future, as many other Unions hold referenda to reaffirm that staying in is right for them.

One of the motions our media groups paid particular attention to was Motion 314, which passed. Motion 314 passing basically means that Students Unions cannot ban or control how their student media report on elections. This is something that, as a non-affiliated Union, we are not affected by, but it is good to see that the freedom of student media to report on elections how they see fit is being supported. Now, if only it wasn’t for the motion that passed proposing to censor YikYak…

I feel that the NUS is an organisation with a great deal of good intent, and many sensible people at its core who want to improve life for students (just like your own students union). Unfortunately for them, it is the outlandish and the irregular that make headlines, and while these contribute, it is not this reason that I don’t think the NUS is right for us. It is how fast we’ve responded to student needs, how much attention we can pay our own students when we aren’t embroiled in the controversy that does arise, and the opportunities we create for ourselves as a Union with the resource that we don’t put to the NUS.

3. The AGM

Last, but absolutely not least, the AGM is approaching! This is always exciting, and I’ve been sneaking a peek at some of your submitted ideas and I’m really enthused at the range of ideas – there is a lot of commonality in some ideas, which give a good impression of what we should be working on. A lot of it, we’ve already started work on, frustratingly, some of it suggests/demands things we already provide. Overall though, it’s given a really good cross section of what students expect from their Union, what their impression is of what money is spent on, and which University provisions they conflate with our own. As some of it highlights more clearly the issues I wanted to raise in my videos about the separation of the Union and the University and even more importantly, reassure students that we are responsive, we have also seen the issues they’ve seen and in 90% of cases, we’re already making great progess on fixing them/have fixed them, and most importantly of all: Tell you where your money is going. After the AGM, I’ll start work on these videos using your suggestions as examples.

The AGM is at 12pm on the 11th of May in The Bridge – hopefully I’ll see you there!


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